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World Beat 2008

by Philip Brasor

If New York City was the world, then the borough of Brooklyn would be Global Bohemia, the place where undiscovered international creative forces meet, get drunk together and make art. In terms of music, no Brooklyn indie band personifies this idea better than Gogol Bordello, the “gypsy punk” collective whose members hail from Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Africa — and even the United States. But as geographically wide-ranging as gypsy music is, it represents a more limited sonic palette than that of Brooklyn neighbors Balkan Beat Box.

Formed by Israeli Ori Kaplan (who used to play sax with Gogol) and compatriot Tamir Muskat (former member of another world-mongrel rock band, Firewater), Balkan Beat Box start at Yiddish klezmer and then travel around the Mediterranean, borrowing what they like from Algeria, Yemen and the south of France. They mix in hip-hop beats and an MC (fellow Israeli and resident percussionist Tamer Yosef), open the studio to guest singers from Bulgaria and northern Africa, and even go further afield for dancehall rhythms and surf guitar.

For their latest album, “Nu Med,” they mined a vein of pan-Middle Eastern funk and in the process came up with one of the best dance records of 2007, regardless of genre. As riotous as Gogol but exerting less of a conscious effort toward putting across a political point, BBB nevertheless encompass their Brooklyn milieu with longer arms.

Given their cosmopolitan credentials, it’s surprising that BBB have never performed in Japan, but in July they will headline the World Beat 2008 festival, which also features Think of One, a Belgium-based multicultural collective that play a synthesis of punk, jazz and funk derived from Moroccan music forms. You can never get too much of the world.

World Beat 2008 is on July 5 from 4 p.m. at Kawachi Nagano Lovely Hall, Osaka (¥6,000); and July 6 from 4 p.m. at Hibiya Park Amphitheatre, Tokyo (¥6,800). Balkan Beat Box also play July 8, 7 p.m. at Shibuya Duo Music Exchange, Tokyo (¥5,500). For more information, call Plankton on (03) 3498-2881.